Hi Reading friends– This is a post a did a few years back when I started this little blog and my mom was the only one reading it. And since I’m always on the lookout for book suggestions, I thought you might like to see it too:
Why did I do it? A couple weeks ago, I filled out one of the reoccurring facebook surveys–to join in with some fun friends. But the questions were boring– “How do you like your steak?” “Do you wear your seatbelt?” I thought-I should make my own survey with questions I’d really like to answer! So here it is “The Favorite Books in Various Categories Survey.” That’s better!
FAVORITE BOOKS IN VARIOUS CATEGORIES SURVEY
(I wanted to pick one from each category, but just could not! Two was the least I could manage. This list is not for the faint of heart–read on if you are feeling intrepid)
FAVORITE NOVEL– “Home” by Marilyn Robinson, gives a blessed picture of an aging pastor cared for by his single daughter at the time when his “prodigal son” returns for a stay. The interactions between the characters, the generational differences,the deep interior views into the souls of the family, the faith and understanding of the old man make this book dear to my heart.
Also “Distant Land of my Father: by Bo Caldwell. Set from Shanghai to Pasadena, the story tells of the relationship of a girl/later young woman and her father through turbulent times in China and his waning years in California. It also contains pictures of loyalty and faith. Great ending.
FAVORITE KIDS PICTURE BOOK– “Wolf” is the charming story of a wolf who is shamed into learning to read by his barnyard friends. Wolf in school. Wolf at the library, the bookstore… Quirky drawings and dry-witted pigs and cows make this an engaging book. Of course, it’s all about reading!
Also, “Monet’s Garden” by Christina Bjork and Lina Anderson (originally in Swedish), this is the tale of an adorable, young French girl who travels to visit Monet’s garden home in Giverny by way of Paris. The combination of sweet illustrations, photographs and reproductions of Monet’s work make this a uniquely educational and readable book for children. It’s the book I wish I had produced! Love it!
FAVORITE KIDS CHAPTER BOOK– “The BFG” by Roald Dahl. Who can resist the charms of the Big Friendly Giant, who sets out with small, orphaned Sophie to reach the Queen of England in time to save Britain’s children from mean, kid gobbling giants?! With the Big Friendly Giant’s inventive vocabulary and the illustrations by that ever-clever Quentin Blake, this book is enchanting!
Also, “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry. This book couldn’t be more different than the “BFG.” The story of a Danish family who takes in a Jewish neighbor friend as their own daughter during the German occupation of WWII. There is suspense and drama without being violent. I can’t read the epilogue about the Danish resistance fighters to my 3rd graders without tear-ing up. A touching, story of hope.
FAVORITE ADVENTURE BOOK– “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor. A children’s story,the gripping tale of a young boy and a blind man struggling to survive a storm on a barren Caribbean island and learning about interdependence and trust. I started reading this one afternoon years ago and didn’t stop til I had read to the end at 3:00 in the morning!
FAVORITE HISTORIC BOOK– “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang. Written by a Chinese expat, it tells the story of 3 generations. –Her grandmother, feet bound and married to a war lord. –Her mother a part of Mao’s revolutionary forces only to be sacrificed in the cultural revolution. And finally, her own story of a family torn apart by circumstances of the 1960’s as she came into adulthood. Gripping stories of real lives. At times I didn’t want to keep reading so much sadness, but was rewarded with a new sense of the Chinese lives in the last century. One of my all time favorites.
Also, “The Source” by James Michner. I read this book one summer when we were living in Dallas years ago– Like an archeological dig, it unearths story after story of people of Israel–characters calling to mind Abraham and David as well as modern heros of that land. Fiction, but a picture well painted of other times.
FAVORITE BIOGRAPHIES– “Surprised by Joy” by CS Lewis. Lewis tells his journey to faith, a wonder-ful picture of a life come to God. We owe so much to the faithful musings of this brilliant man. So heartening.
Also, “Depth of Glory” by Irving Stone. I had to think long and hard as to which Stone biography I would choose. Loved his bios of Michelangelo and Van Gogh as well, but this detailed account of the life of Camille Pissarro is a fascinating look at one man’s evolution as well as the development of the whole group of Parisian impressionists, of which Pissarro was the grand old man. It made me wish to be part of the cafe crowd at the turn of the last century.
FAVORITE MEMOIR- This might be my favorite genre of book. I’m thinking I need to write a whole other blog to go on about the favorite people I’ve met this way. But for now, here’s two. “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff. Sheff writes of the twists and turns of his sons life and addiction to methamphetamines. Told from the perspective of a father’s anguish, it rollercoasters over years of his trying to care for and save his son. Heartbreaking and beautifully told. Insightful look at parenting…
Also, “Comfort Me with Apples” by Ruth Reichl. Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine, chronicles her years becoming a food lover/expert, first of her 4 memoirs. This book covers her years in a co-op in Berkeley, her beginnings as a food writer and her growth into adulthood. Lots of fun name dropping and vivid looks at beautiful food.
FAVORITE “ART” BOOK– I could go on about favorite art histories, but two little gems come to mind. “I Juan de Pareja,” a Newberry Medal book by Eliz. Barton de Trevino. It’s a historical novel of the life of Juan de Pareja, a black man born to slavery in Seville, Spain, who rises under the protection of the artist, Velazquez to assist in the court of King Philip !V and become a painter in his own right. It includes brilliant meetings with Rubens and Murillo (my favorite Spanish artist) and days of life in court. My serendipitous addendum to this book, took place in the Met in NYC. I was searching for the painting of Juan de Pareja painted by Velazquez. When I came upon it, a Spanish tour guide was addressing a group of Spanish tourists on the history of the painting. It was just perfect!
Also, “Cezanne and the Provencal Table” by Jean-Bernard Naudin. This beautifully photographed book unfolds the life and, at times, unhappy career of the painter, Cezanne, interspersed with reproductions of his paintings, historical photos and recipes from the life and epoch of Cezanne. Delicious in every way.
COFFEE TABLE BOOK– I put one of my all time favorite books in this category–“Material World” by Peter Menzel. The book contains photographs of families from 25 countries around the world. Each family is pictured in their daily routine for about 6 pages, culminating in a grand photo of the family in front of their dwelling surrounded by every material possession they own. A fascinating comparison from the simple mud home in Mali, to the luxurious spread in Kuwait and the all American family in Houston. Families were chosen for their median status in their country so give a typical picture. Statistics included the percentage they spend on food. their most prized possession, life expectancy… A concise, but graphic look at the world around us. So moving…
Also, “Last Supper” by Melanie Dunea. Fifty well known chefs from around the world were asked to describe a meal if they knew it was their last supper. Each entry follows a striking photo of the chef in question and his/her detailed account of the people, the menu, the music and setting of their perfect “last meal.” Answers varied, but they often included people they loved most and sometimes comfort foods from their past. Intriguing.
FAVORITE TRAVEL BOOK– the Dorling Kindersley Top 10 Travel books. Each book in this series covers a specific city and is small enough to fit into your pocket. They start with the top 10 sights in the given city, then move on to neighborhood walks, great maps and other top 10s– top 10 parks in Paris or top ten fountains in Rome or most useful– top ten pastries to eat in Vienna! Every page is heavily illustrated with beautiful photos. Great reading even on a summer when you’re stuck at home!
Also, “Heidi’s Alp” by Christina Hardyment. The accounting of a British family that loaded their three girls into a car pulling a yellow “caravan” (travel trailer) and set out to see all the storybook sights of Europe– Pinnocio’s Italy, the woods of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson’s little mermaid in the harbor of Copenhagen. Their experiences at times matched our own travels through Europe with 4 kids, the good days and bad. Loved it!
FAVORITE COOKBOOK– “Barefoot Contessa Parties” by Ina Garten. Besides the actually usable recipes, she espouses a calm, gracious form of entertaining that is inspirational. It’s the kind of cookbook you could sit and read straight through–by the end you’ll be planning a party. Also loved the great photos that included her beautiful home.
Also, “Summer” by Susan Branch. The recipes are down to earth and fun. But it’s the illustration, hand painted by Branch that I loved. She wrote one whole page on drawing, another on camping in Sequoia, also summer trips to the library! I think she stole my childhood! I copied one of her borders onto my kitchen walls when we moved into our first Brea home. Lovely.
FAVORITE TEACHING BOOK– “The New Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trealease. Love it! I first came across a copy I borrowed from an American friend in Spain. I started to copy out all the important bits and found I was copying the whole book! Super motivating to get you reading to and with kids. Funny and packed with information, including a good booklist in the back. I’ve read it at least 3 times.
Also, “El Primer Libro de los Numeros” by Stephen Cartwright. He’s British and my copy of the book (see title!) was purchased in Spain. I absolutely adore his simple but super expressive illustrations. Fun, imaginative ways to look at math through pictures. For example one page has 100 small crows painted on, turn the page and there are 1,000 crows. great graphic!
FAVORITE HOME BOOK– “Hidden Art” by Edith Schaeffer. Living in a Swiss Chalet with her philosopher/theologian of a husband and a house full of kids, Edith sets out chapter by chapter to detail the most artful way to keep a home– topics include cooking, music, hospitality, sewing, gardening, painting, clothing, recreation… This is the first hardback book I remember buying and it shaped the homemaker I have become. I owe much to this inventive, brilliant woman.
Also, “Home” by Witold Rybczy. An entertaining, informative book that documents homes from the middle ages, through the domesticity of Vermeers Dutch world, the excesses and beginnings of comfort with French royalty, up through modern homes with all our electronic wonders. Side topics such as the evolution of chairs. Great fun and a domestic walk through history.
FAVORITE MOM BOOK– “The Mother’s Almanac” by Marguerite Kelly and Eva Parsons. This book covers every possible topic of raising small children. Packed with ideas. Favorite quote– “Try potty training for 2 weeks. If it is not successful, give it a break. One of you is not ready.”
Also, “A Mother’s Heart” by Jean Flemming. A wise mother shares her views on raising children to love God. She includes topics like values, praying for your child, teaching at home, depending on God, sending your kids out… A book to be reread over time.
FAVORITE CHRISTIAN BOOK– If you’ve been around me lately, you know I will start with “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. I have seldom be so affected by a book. His own coming to faith story in the Introduction is worth the price of the book. His collective evidences for belief are comforting, his description of sin is oh so convicting, his concept of forgiveness made me change my ways, his wide range of sources and respect for skeptics is noteworthy. I love this book. Have read it twice, will read it again.
Also, “Devotional Classic” edited by Richard Foster and James Smith. Each chapter pulls from the writings of a different Christian thinker, followed by a pertinent scripture and questions. A wonderful way to “make the acquaintance” of people you’ve only heard of– CS Lewis, St John of the Cross, Augustine, Pascal, Bonhoeffer… Who knew that Martin Luther could be so lively and smart?! A worthwhile introduction that should lead to further reading…
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE BIBLE– The book of Philippians. Where to start? With the selfless example of Christ in chapter 2? with the fellowship of his sufferings in 3? I read this book through several times this summer in China–so much hope and instruction. Favorite verses: 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but with Thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God, and the peace of God that passes all understanding shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” Amen
Also, the Psalms. The book I turn to most often. I have several favorite chapters, but 86 is the one I’ve read 100 times– for God’s mercy on me, to lift up my soul, for an undivided heart, for hope ahead… God is good.